Ooh-la-la! Ici les headlines

By Joe Joseph (THE TIMES, 07/12/06):

Last night (“hier soir”) France (“La Fronns”) launched a 24-hour bilingual news channel (“une manche de nouvelles autour-le-clock”) to counter what it sees as the current Anglo-Saxon bias of the traditional international TV news channels, such as CNN and BBC World.

Why? Because France (“la Fronns”) realised that what the world most needed in these troubled times of war (“la guerre”), economic uncertainty (“vous demandez combien pour cette voiture avec une derrière comme ça de Jennifer Lopez? Etes-vous fou comme un chien?”), and global warming (“ooh-la-la, il fait chaud!”) was a 24-hour news channel delivered from the unique perspective of a country that still relies, for its primary source of medical care, on suppositories (“ooh-la-la! Ca chose-là produit beaucoup de l’eau dans mes yeux, Monsieur le Médecin. Et aussi vous m’avez donné une derrière comme ça de Jennifer Lopez!”).

Since, alongside the news , the new state-funded France 24 channel sees itself as an ambassador for the French “art de vivre” (French for “way of life”) and for its “savoir faire” (“rural snail-tasting festivals”), the channel launched at 7.29 GMT yesterday evening — presumably in order to allow staff and viewers to first knock back a couple of reviving Pernods after their return from the traditional Gallic post-work/pre-dinner bout of hanky-panky (“mouchoir-pouchoir”).

That means that at the time of writing, we don’t actually know what the opening headlines were. But we might guess they were something along the lines of, “Iraq, c’est encore un grand mess, n’est-ce pas?” (literally, “That George Bush is a dork, isn’t he?”); and “L’Angleterre evidemment a une équipe de cricket qui joue comme un bunch de garçons de Nancy — pas, obvieusement, notre Nancy en Lorraine!”); though maybe not, “Et maintenant, les actualités chaud directe de Rwanda . . .”).

But is there an international audience hungry to see the world through French eyes (shielded by chic Chanel sunglasses; even indoors)? Or to unravel the mysteries of French life, such as every driver’s determination to park in a space the size of a suitcase, as if it is one of the rights of man; or France’s passion for viewing all major national events through the prism of either its philosophers, such as Pascal (“Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point”: literally, “some people like fruitcake, others don’t”) or Sartre (“to do is to be”), or else through Johnny Halliday (“do be do be do”)? France 24 is basically a TV channel for a nation that is annoyed that it has failed to persuade the rest of the world to speak French rather than English (apart from — and this really embarrasses them — the word gauche, which is the universally used term for “Donald Rumsfeld”).

If only the French hadn’t stubbornly invented a different word for every English word already doing a perfectly fine job, there wouldn’t now be the need for France to redeliver all the day’s news, only in a form in which all the words now sound like “hawng”. Still, we admire their sang-froid (or “cool pop charts”).